Penn women drop third straight against NJIT
Poor defense and off shooting night doom Quakers
January 12, 2012, 12:08 am · Updated January 12, 2012, 2:05 am·
Kai Tang | DP
Adjusting on the fly is difficult, especially when the adjustment involves the absence of a key veteran player.
After captain Jess Knapp went down with a season-threatening knee injury in the Quakers’ game against San Diego State in late December, Penn knew it would be difficult to adjust without its defensive stalwart and only senior starter.
And Wednesday night against NJIT, the Quakers couldn’t adjust in time. Penn struggled to find a rhythm on either side of the ball throughout the game and fell, 52-48.
“This one was huge for us, it’s going to hit us a little bit,” coach Mike McLaughlin said after the game. “We’ve got to get the players to bounce back.”
The hope was that with a game against NJIT (6-10), a school in only its sixth year of competition in Division I, Penn (7-5) could tune up before its schedule shifted to the three-game conclusion of Big 5 play.
However, the loss marked the Quakers’ first three-game slide of the season, as well as their first non-conference loss at the Palestra.
Sophomore guard Alyssa Baron led all scorers with 17 points and spearheaded a comeback attempt by the Quakers late in the second half. She struggled to score efficiently, though, going 5-for-20 from the field.Freshmen cohort also supported the Red and Blue, as Renee Busch contributed 10 points and five rebounds while Kara Bonenberger collected a season-high 13 boards and scored eight points.
In a game in which neither team led by more than six points, the small mistakes on both sides of the court had larger repercussions.
The Quakers made just over half of their 23 free throw attempts, missing nine of 19 in the decisive second half.
“We missed free throws, layups around the basket, wide open shots — we just left too many points out there,” McLaughlin said.
And although the Quakers forced 18 turnovers, they also committed 15 of their own. Of those 15, five were committed by Baron. But the Highlanders struggled to capitalize, scoring just 12 points off the giveaways.
Three-pointers could not bail out the Red and Blue. Penn made only two of its 17 attempts.
“We’ve got to find ways to shoot at a higher percentage, there’s no question about it,” McLaughlin admitted. “You live and die by the three-point shot.”
Shooting just 28 percent overall, the Quakers could not match the offensive output of an NJIT team which took 15 fewer shots, but shot 44 percent. That statistic is particularly worrisome for the Quakers, considering they led the Ivy League in opponent field goal percentage at just under 36 percent entering the game.
“We weren’t sharp defensively in the second half,” McLaughlin said. “We just could never get over that hump.”
It was on this defensive end that the Quakers missed their anchor the most. Without a clear leader in the paint, the Quakers looked lost at various points throughout the contest, and NJIT exploited their confusion.
While Penn outrebounded NJIT, 48-32, the Quakers could not apply their customary pressure on the Highlanders’ ball handlers. The visitors moved the ball relatively freely, and assisted on 12 of their 20 baskets.
“Unfortunately we’re struggling in the area of confidence right now,” McLaughlin said.
The Quakers will have three days to recover — though that will likely not be enough time for the injured Knapp — before they face Big 5 powerhouse St. Joseph’s at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Hagan Arena.